Cyclists and long-distance walkers, listen up: The bicycle and pedestrian path across the eastern span of the Bay Bridge is done.

But hold on: The path from Oakland to Yerba Buena Island isn’t open yet — repeat, it’s not open — and won’t be until crews complete a few finishing touches on the island side of the route. The path is expected to open in the next two to three weeks, officials and bike advocates say, and an exact date could be settled on this week.

The Bay Bridge Trail, as the cycling/walking path is formally known, opened in September 2013, immediately after the eastern span opened to motor vehicles. The path has been open past the eastern span’s suspension tower, about 2.5 miles west of the Bay Bridge Toll Plaza but a few hundred yards short of Yerba Buena Island. Construction delays and design tweaks have held up the path’s opening, which Caltrans initially scheduled for 2014.

The main issue holding things up now? The trail’s Yerba Buena Island landing point is in the middle of a busy construction zone, with crews working on new ramps for traffic onto and off of the bridge. To complicate matters, the surface streets at which the path ends are narrow and steep. Cyclists who venture down Hillcrest Road, which leads to Treasure Island, can count on encountering traffic bound to or from the bridge.

Map and diagram showing location of Bay Bridge Trail and a new vista point for cyclists and pedestrians on Yerba Buena Island. (Click for full-size image.)
Map and diagram showing location of Bay Bridge Trail and a new vista point for cyclists and pedestrians on Yerba Buena Island. (Click for full-size image.) (Bay Area Toll Authority)

“At the end of the path, it’s a very dangerous situation for pedestrians and cyclists,” Renee Rivera, executive director of Bike East Bay, said in an interview last week. “… We want the bridge open more than anyone, but I am not OK with the way it is now.”

Randy Rentschler, spokesman for the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, said Tuesday that the agencies involved in the project — which include Caltrans, the Bay Area Toll Authority, the San Francisco County Transportation Authority and the city’s Treasure Island Development Authority — want to make sure the island end of the path is safe before it opens.

Rentschler said it will be important “for people to understand the environment they’re in” when they reach Yerba Buena Island.

“What’s happening there is not only is there a lot of construction trucks all the time, but roads are closed, too,” Rentschler said. “So the idea is to provide access to people that’s safe and provide people an experience that is memorable in a positive way.”

To improve the odds that path users will have that positive experience, the S.F. County Transportation Authority has built a temporary vista point, complete with bike racks, restrooms and water fountains, adjacent to an old Navy residence just to the southwest of the trail’s western end.

SFCTA spokesman Eric Young said Tuesday that work on preparing the short route from the path to the vista point, which includes a 12-foot-wide crosswalk across Southgate Road and new directional and advisory signage, is nearly complete. Young said the vista facility, which will look east and southeast over the Oakland waterfront, is expected to open by mid-November.

Rivera, Rentschler and Young all say they expect the bike path to be open to Yerba Buena Island by then — sometime in the next two to three weeks. Among the issues still to be ironed out is what to do for cyclists who want to travel down from the heights of Yerba Buena Island to the adjacent sea-level expanse of Treasure Island.

Rentschler notes it will be possible for cyclists to ride to and from Treasure Island but emphasized it’s not an undertaking for the faint of heart.

The route “is tight, is congested with people seeking to get onto the freeway, in some cases it has trucks on it,” Rentschler said. “Experienced cyclists would have no problem with this. But I would urge people not to bring inexperienced bicyclists or families on this road — it is simply not a safe place for them to be.”

For the short term, transportation officials are planning to use shuttle vans or buses to get both those less experienced riders and pedestrians from the new vista point to Treasure Island.

After the current bridge-related ramp construction ends, Rentschler says, transportation agencies will build “much safer” alternate routes from the end of the eastern span trail to Treasure Island. That project, which he says is already mapped out, will involve repaving roads, fencing and guardrails along some parts of the route, and restriping intersections.

“But look, that’s going to take a while,” Rentschler said. “I guess I’m asking folks to be happy with what they can get — all the way across — knowing that when you get there, except for the most experienced riders, you’ve found the end of your trip as opposed to the beginning of it.”

Of course, that’s when cyclists will really start asking when they’ll be able to ride all the way to San Francisco. That’s another project that’s going to take a while.

  • saimin

    The public has waited patiently for this since 2013. A few more years won’t kill anyone. In the meantime, just bring your car and add to the traffic.

  • Jake Teitelbaum

    By making people wait extra YEARS already is making this a negative experience. This project is late for its already very late opening. This article makes it all sound like a death trap on the other side, while then crossing a chasm of doom to get to Treasure Island. It’s not. Just open it up, people will figure it out. If you can face all the horrible obstacles (so much construction traffic) just to GET to the bridge in the first place, then you will be fine crossing to the other side.

  • sffoghorn

    Even when completed, this looks like a very unpleasant experience. Not only do you have to negotiate the maze of freeways at the east anchorage of the Bridge, you’ve got to bike up an incline for 3 miles into the wind to get to a pinnacle in the middle of the bay. Once there, all routes lead down steep hills through traffic congestion. The studies that claim that several times more people per day would bike across the bay on the bridge were there a west span path than currently bike down Market at the Twitterloin cannot be taken seriously given the unpleasantness of the ride, hills, chills and wind.

    Sure, paths are great idea but $300m to complete the route? Take a lane on the west span instead.

    • Inki

      Little bit of breeze is not a big deal at all, I used to bike to work 17 miles each way rain or shine, morning or 6pm in winter. When you are properly dressed its fine, and those that are used to biking would rather do that than sit 45 min in the car from Emeryville to Fremont St.

      • sffoghorn

        I am used to biking, I’ve done it most every day in San Francisco for the past 27 years, and commuting across the bay sounds onerous to the extent that it would be feasible for a very small percentage of cyclists.

        Those 300m dollars (the estimate was, what, ten years ago already, looking at half a gigabuck now?) for the west span ped/cycle path would be better spent contributing to beefing up BART to 24 hour service between West Oakland and Embarcadero.

        Single issue advocates are known for going Ahab on things. This is one of those things.

  • Inki

    So during the same time they’ve built most of the salesforce tower while These folks can’t connect a freaking ramp… unbelievable!
    They hate the idea of people being able to bike there, imagine all the money they would lose if you could actually bike from Oakland to San Francisco.
    The more jammed the bridge is the happier they are, it’s all about $$$

  • Caminante Del Pachakuti

    Something that is forgotten in this discussion is that people live in Treasure Island. The only connection of the island with the mainland in terms of public transportation is the bus 25 that runs to the Transbay Terminal in SF. So, to go to the East Bay you need to wait for a bus that sometimes takes up to 50 minutes, ride it to SF, walk and then BART to Oakland. Opening the bike lane would finally connect the Island to the East Bay. It’s not the ideal (there should be a bus) but it’s what we have.

  • heroine worshiper

    Milking every last $million out of it. That porta potty is an inch off. That’ll be another $6 million & 2 months work.


Dan Brekke

Dan Brekke is a blogger, reporter and editor for KQED News, responsible for online breaking news coverage of topics ranging from California water issues to the Bay Area's transportation challenges. In a newsroom career that began in Chicago in 1972, Dan has worked as a city and foreign/national editor for The San Francisco Examiner, editor at Wired News, deputy editor at Wired magazine, managing editor at TechTV as well as for several Web startups.

Since joining KQED in 2007, Dan has reported, edited and produced both radio and online features and breaking news pieces. He has shared in two Society of Professional Journalists Norcal Excellence in Journalism awards — for his 2012 reporting on a KQED Science series on water and power in California, and in 2014, for KQED's comprehensive reporting on the south Napa earthquake.

In addition to his 44 years of on-the-job education, Dan is a lifelong student of history and is still pursuing an undergraduate degree.

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